File photo

Santa Monica’s oldest living landmark takes center focus in newly revealed plans for the Miramar Hotel’s massive redesign. The future home of FIG Restaurant, The Bungalow club, and many of the 312 luxury guest rooms and 60 residences look out on the sprawling branches of the Moreton Bay Fig. The owners, Ocean Avenue, LLC, filed the newest design iteration of the hotel with the city Wednesday and now awaits the community’s response to the latest evolution of the controversial project.

“This new plan allows us to honor the Miramar hotel’s past while moving it towards the future,” said Ellis O’Connor of MSD Hospitality in a press release. “We are excited to be working with a brilliant design team, including world-class architects, landscape architects, and historic preservation consultants, to rejuvenate this extraordinary community asset consistent with the values of Santa Monica.”

The new design is a complete departure from the iteration in 2013 that fueled anti-development sentiment with a towering 320-foot building that threatened to eclipse nearby ocean views. With multiple design overhauls and last summer’s discussion of the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) behind them, management at the Miramar hopes a decade of debate over the future of the 4.5 acres that once belonged to Santa Monica’s founder will soon be over. Once a Development Agreement is approved by the City Council, the hotel and restaurants will be completely shut down for nearly three years of construction.

The winners of a global design contest, the architects Cesar and Rafael Pelli, hope the curving, horizontal lines of two, new modern buildings will please the multitude of commissioners who will review the project before it even gets to Council. At its tallest, the largest building hits 130 feet. The rounded corners echo 100 Wilshire next door and the streamline moderne architecture of the landmark Shangri La Hotel further down the street.

“While the new buildings are magnificent, and reflect the energy and ethos of Santa Monica, the human experiences at the pedestrian level are equally extraordinary and make a meaningful contribution to the urban fabric of Downtown Santa Monica,” said Cesar and Rafael Pelli in a joint statement.

The plans to renovate the property have been in various stages since tech billionaire Michael Dell purchased the entity that owned the property for $200 million back in 2006. Dell, and thus the project, faced community scrutiny early on by using a Proposition 13 loophole to avoid a reassessment that would have triggered higher property taxes. Until the renovation, the hotel will continue to be taxed at its 1999 value.

Meanwhile, hotel management says the historic hotel has outgrown its mismatched buildings and bungalows on Ocean Avenue. The Palisades Building on the northeast corner of the site is also a landmark and will be renovated as part of the project.

New mock-ups detail plans to tear down the walls that currently surround the hotel to showcase 14,000 square feet of open gardens and a raised deck enveloping the 80-foot tree’s roots to allow for outdoor seating under its branches. While the gardens will be available for private parties, management says they will be open to the public to wander and enjoy most of the time.

“Some of the most compelling features of the new design are the stunning new open spaces,” said Dustin Peterson of The Athens Group, the real estate company in charge of the redevelopment. “When the Miramar Hotel originally opened in 1920, guests were drawn to its breathtaking gardens and open spaces. Over time, the gardens and public space became hidden and restricted to guests, with building additions and tall walls surrounding the property. The new Miramar Santa Monica seeks to restore and enhance the garden identity to the hotel.”

The plans move the vehicle drop off to 2nd street where valets will have access to underground garages with triple the current amount of parking for employees, guests and visitors. Valets currently make around 100 trips around city streets every day to take cars to off-site parking garages. Proponents say those trips will be eliminated if the project is approved.

The Miramar owns a parking lot across the street at 1127 Second Street, where it will build a 100 percent affordable apartment complex. Plans for that building are still in the drafting stages, but management says there will be at least thirty units inside. The Miramar is still seeking a partnership to manage the building.

Once it is up and running, management says the union hotel will generate about $16 million in tax revenue a year for the city. The Miramar says construction will create 150 new jobs.

The project aims for LEED Platinum status, along with a 33 percent water use reduction and 29 percent energy use reduction. Current plans show solar panels on the roof and a water recycling system.

The Miramar is one of three established large sites in the DCP, including the city-owned 4th and Arizona project and a Frank Gehry-designed project at 101 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press